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Colors and textures from surrounding woodlands inspired the interior of this lakeside retreat


A house situated just minutes from a large lake and surrounded by dense woodland should ideally be designed to sit comfortably – and sympathetically – within its environment. To continue the flow through to the interior, though, can present a challenge if the client's brief demands a radically different style of decor.

Fortunately, in the case of this lakeside second home, the owners asked designers Handman Associates to produce a contemporary, yet rustic, look and feel. Designers Shelly Handman and Veronica Riley Martens felt the best way to achieve that brief was to bring the outside in, fulfilling both the visual and tactile senses.

"The clients had a very distinct idea of a rustic contemporary look that was nothing like their traditional, elegant city apartment that we had recently designed, so initially it took us by surprise," says Riley Martens. "Once on site, we realized the inspiration was right outside the windows, and the colors and textures of the woods shaped our design ideas throughout the project."

They say the initial brief was to update a few aspects of the lake house interior. The job rapidly turned into a complete overhaul of the home, with just a few pieces of original furniture remaining.

Tones of green and brown, along with neutral shades, dominate the interior – from the rough-hewn armchair fabrics to the woven floor mats. A dark bronze woven sofa suite makes for a casual, almost-outdoor feeling in the screened-in sunporch. Splashes of vivid green in the cushions and plants throughout the house reflect the lush colors of summer leaves.


Dominated by a double-height stone fireplace surround, the living area inspires images of intimate winter evenings spent reading by the fire. A clever design feature is the original artwork that slides along a rail to hide the flat screen television when not in use.

A lot of thought was put into the choice of dining table, say the designers.

"Being a significantly sized piece of wooden furniture, we wanted to capture the elements of nature in a raw sense."

An antique furniture store specializing in using reclaimed wood designed and made the table from unused railway planks, which were in pristine condition.

"The overall effect is crude, with a chalky finish, but very effective because of its raw simplicity," says Handman.

Above the table hangs a metal frame containing candle shells, each with a 25-watt bulb inserted. Two halogen downlights serve to highlight the table setting.

The homeowners were very certain about how they liked to live, says Handman. They enjoy entertaining and didn't want their bedroom, which could be seen from the front door entrance, to be hidden away behind closed doors when guests arrived.

One solution was to create small living areas within the large bedroom. Through the open door, visitors can spot a pair of comfortable armchairs on either side of an ottoman, each with a reading lamp alongside. Glass sliding doors open onto a sunroom, an ideal spot to enjoy breakfast or afternoon coffee. The room is also accessible from the living area. The owner has her study nook tucked almost out of sight on the far side of the room, and an entire wall of book shelving adds a library-like serenity to the bedroom.

Choosing a designer needn't be based on geographical location, says Handman.

"Although we only went to the site twice during the whole process, every nook and cranny of the home received our attention through the use of plans, photographs and our clients' excellent ability to relay information like drawings and measurements via email."

Credit List

Architect John O Hurst, Von der Heide Architects Inc (Douglas, MI)
Interior designer Shelly Handman and Veronica Riley Martens, Handman Associates (Chicago, IL)
Contractor Darpel & Associates Builders Inc
Porch sofas Sienna sofas, Henry Hall
Living room chairs Mayfield club chairs, TexStyle Artwork over T
V Afternoon Respite by Lena Bartula for Crossroads Contemporary Gallery
Table lamps on living room console Primitive Grand, Boyd Lighting
Draperies DeVries & Dornbos
Dining table Custom-weathered pine table, Mike Bell
Dining chairs Othello chairs, John Charles Design
Pendant Altar Hanging light, Holly Hunt
Dining room rug Tibetan wool area rug, Tufenkian
Master headboard and frame Estudio Furnishings
Master bedroom bench Siri bench, Bright Chair Co
Bed linen Bedside Manners
Floor lamps Pharmacy lamps, J.H. Lighting
Sunroom dining table Pedestal table, LaLune
Sunroom dining chairs Umbria, McGuire Furniture
Twig headboard Custom designed by Handman Associates, LaLune Collection

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